League: Old boys fight to keep Pirates afloat

By Michael Brown

In one game it was 76-10; 70-10 in another. It was a dreadful season by anyone's standards.

Point Chevalier won just one of their 22 games, conceded a mammoth 838 points at nearly 40 points a game and finished a distant last in the Phelan Shield, Auckland's third division.

The club is also in bad shape financially and has been for a number of years.

The clubrooms are looking a little decrepit and there are now only five teams from under-14s to the first team.

Sometimes fielding them was a struggle and the seniors had to forfeit one game because of a lack of players.

But a couple of high-profile old boys hope to turn it all around. Awen Guttenbeil and Stacey Jones will coach the Pirates next season.

They might not get them back to where they were in the 1950s, when they won the 1953 Fox Memorial and a number of Auckland premiership trophies but they hope at least to get them moving in the right direction.

Neither has any real expectations of what they can achieve but, as Jones says: "They finished last in the third division so there's only one way to go."

It's a club for which both Jones and Guttenbeil have a lot of affection.

Jones played most of his junior rugby league at Point Chevalier, joining as a 9-year-old until the time he was picked up by the Warriors at 17.

Guttenbeil originated from Whangarei but joined Jones at the Pirates at 14 until he moved to Sydney to sign with Manly at 18.

Both have limited coaching experience. Jones has his level two coaching badge, held a few clinics when playing for Catalans in the UK Super League and was Warriors kicking coach in 2008.

Guttenbeil was both player and assistant coach at Castleford in 2008, the year he helped the Yorkshire club gain promotion back to the Super League.

"I don't think you really need to know a lot at this level, anyway," Guttenbeil says of their coaching experience.

"We're not trying to coach them too much and make them see what it takes to be a professional because they have to play for fun.

"It's a challenge for them, because they don't get paid to play and are flogged each week. Hopefully we can win a few games and breed a hunger to play again.

"They have been struggling on and off the pitch for a while, which is part of the reason we wanted to be involved.

"We wanted to give something back. It also gives us a good reason to go to the club for a beer."

They hope a few of their friends might join them. They have already approached former Warriors Monty Betham and Wairangi Koopu about playing again and are also trying to tempt Point Chevalier resident and former All Black Andrew Blowers into trying his hand at the 13-man code. Both Guttenbeil and Jones will also play the occasional game.

"I'm there to have some fun but also to help the club get back on its feet because they aren't in the best shape," Jones says.

"I would play. I don't want to play but if it helps the cause, then definitely.

"I remember when I was a young kid playing for Point Chev, my heroes weren't playing Winfield Cup. My heroes were playing for Point Chev. I want to instil that again.

"There are a lot of guys all talking about [playing] but when it comes to the crunch ... We'll see."

Guttenbeil and Jones will hold three 'training' sessions this month, starting next Sunday at Walker Park, when they hope players turn up for a game of touch and a barbecue.

The real training will begin in the New Year. They have committed to coaching for one season, after which time they will re-evaluate.

"I'm not doing this because I want to be a professional coach," Guttenbeil says.

"It's very much motivated by wanting to help the club out. But I enjoy coaching, so who knows where it might take me?"

Anyone interested in playing should meet at Walker Park at noon next Sunday or contact the club.

- Herald on Sunday

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